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Kentucky to Study Impact of Law Targeting Prescription Pill Abuse

Kentucky officials will start a yearlong study next month to determine the effects of controversial new laws designed to curb prescription pill abuse.

The Courier-Journal reports the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has contracted with the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy's Institute for Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy on the study, which will run July 1 through June 30, 2014.

David Hopkins, who manages the state's prescription drug monitoring program called KASPER, said the study will look at several areas including changes in prescribing patterns, the impact on drug-treatment centers and whether the laws have had unintended consequences.

Those to be surveyed for the study include doctors, dentists and licensing boards. Researchers will also review data from the prescription drug monitoring program and statistics from hospitals and substance abuse centers.

"We have a long-term vision of really looking at this. For instance: Are there unintended consequences?" said Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. "Hopefully, we'll be able to see that (the laws) are doing what they're designed to do."

Greater Louisville Medical Society President Dr. James Patrick Murphy, who is a pain and addiction specialist, said he sees advantages and disadvantages with the new laws.

"There is less overprescribing; there's no question. ... And I do believe the law has shut down pill mills to a large degree," said Murphy. "Some of the bad effects of the law (are) that patients with chronic pain are being underserved. ... A lot of the pain patients who need ongoing care are being turned away."

Former addict Joshua Huffman, who now is an anti-drug activist, said he is supportive of the study. Huffman, of Pikeville, says "any kind of law should always be studied to see the true ramifications."

Hopkins agreed, saying he hopes the study finds the state "did the right thing."

"I'd like to see it demonstrate that we really are reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion in Kentucky," he said. "And hopefully, if there are some areas for improvement, it will find those, too."

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